Hills Bros. Coffee

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Hills Bros. Coffee
Jar of Hills Brothers Coffee.jpg
Vintage jar of Hills Bros. coffee with the original "taster" logo
Owner Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA
Country United States
Markets world
Previous owners 1985 - Nestlé
1999 - Sara Lee
Website http://www.hillsbros.com

Hills Bros. Coffee is a maker of packaged coffee in San Francisco.


The company has its origins with the sons of shipbuilder Austin Hills (1823-1905), who was born in Rockland, Maine, and ran a business in California building clipper ships. His three sons were Austin Herbert Hills (1851-1933), Earnest Hills, and Reuben Wilmarth Hills I (1856-1934), although Earnest was involved in the coffee business for only a short time.[1][2] The coffee business was founded in San Francisco in 1878, with a retail store established in 1882, as Arabian Coffee and Spice Mills.[3]

Hills Bros. Coffee building at 2 Harrison Street.

In 1900, Hills Bros. began packing roast coffee in vacuum sealed cans. They incorporated under the Hills Bros. name in 1906.[4] In 1926 Hills Bros. moved its operations to 2 Harrison Street in San Francisco,[5] a Romanesque revival building on the Embarcadero designed by George W. Kelham that is now a city landmark.[6] The roasting operations once made the surrounding area smell like coffee, according to a Key System "March of Progress" style public service film from 1945 [7] In January 2012, the building had become home to Wharton | San Francisco, a satellite of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.[8] A Wharton sign can be currently seen on the Embarcadero side of the building. Google, Inc and the Mozilla Corporation also have offices on several floors of the building.[9]

A symbol of an Arab drinking coffee called "the taster" was designed by an artist named Briggs in 1906[10] but was replaced by a new "taster" to represent the original founders in 1990.[11] In 1976, Hills Brothers hired the Italian-American singer Sergio Franchi as their TV spokesperson to introduce several lines of specialty flavors.[12] Noted character actor John Zaremba was the primary commercial spokesperson for Hills Brothers in the 1970s and early 1980s, portraying a fictional coffee bean buyer.

During World War II, the company's metal containers were replaced with glass jars.[13] In 1984 they purchased the name and manufacturing facilities of the Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company.[14]

In 1985 Nestlé bought the brand and sold it to Sara Lee in 1999.[1][15] Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA purchased the brand in 2006.



  1. ^ a b "Hills Brothers Coffee history". Massimo Zanetti Beverage. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  2. ^ Pendergrast, Mark (2000). Uncommon Grounds. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05467-6. Their father, Austin Hills, born in Rockland, Maine, in 1823, built clipper ships. In 1863 he joined several other Maine friends in search of the fabled California gold. . . . The two original patriarchs, brothers Austin Herbert and Reuben Wilmarth Hills, died in 1933 and 1934, respectively, but their children carried on. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Hills Bros Coffee Fuels Up Chicago". Business Wire. Retrieved 2009-05-25. Hills Bros. Coffee, founded in 1906, has grown to become a market leader in the coffee industry, offering the highest quality coffee beans throughout the United States 
  5. ^ "History - Hills Bros". Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  6. ^ "San Francisco Landmark 157: Hills Bros. Coffee Plant". Retrieved 2011-01-27. This Romanesque Revival building was designed by George Kelham. 
  7. ^ "Key System and March of Progress". SF Museum and Historical Society. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  8. ^ "Tour Wharton | San Francisco". The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on 2011-08-27. Retrieved 09-10-2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ "Mozilla Locations". Mozilla. Retrieved 2013-01-24. 
  10. ^ "History - Hills Bros". Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  11. ^ http://m-meghraoua0912-dc.blogspot.com/2010/09/turbaned-arabs-may-be-gone-but-fiery.html
  12. ^ Westbury Music Fair program: Sergio Franchi. August 10–15, 1976. "Who's Who at the Music Fair." NY: Melvin A. Hoffman, 1976.
  13. ^ "Hills Bros. Coffee Jar". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  14. ^ "Hills Bros. Coffee Inc. has announced that it purchased the name and manufacturing facilities of the Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company". Associated Press in New York Times. September 29, 1984. Retrieved 2007-06-21. San Francisco-based Hills Bros. bought coffee roasting plants in New Orleans, Miami and Casa Grande, Ariz., and will continue to produce ground and instant coffee under the Chase & Sanborn name, according to Rosalind Reidy, a Hills Bros. spokesman. Chase & Sanborn, based in Miami, filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Federal bankruptcy laws in May 1983. Terms of the purchase were not made public. 
  15. ^ "Nestle to Sell Hills Bros., Chase, MJB Coffee Lines". Brandweek. November 29, 1999. Retrieved 2009-05-25. Nestle plans to sell its U.S. roast and ground coffee operations, including the Hills Bros., Chase & Sanborn and MJB brands. "We will announce something in the coming days," chief executive Peter Brabeck said. Nestle decided to put its American ground and roasted coffee operations up for sale because it intends to focus on coffee-based beverages. In an attempt to stimulate flagging instant coffee sales, Nestle is relaunching its Nescafe brand in the United States, introducing new varieties and flavors. 
  16. ^ Lionel, Gosselin (2005). "Coffee Industry Icon and Former Chairman of Hills Bros Coffee, Inc. Appointed Advisor to Coffee Pacifica". Retrieved 2016-11-06. Coffee Pacifica, Inc. announced that Austin E. Hills, a former chairman of the board of Directors of Hills Bros. Coffee, Inc. was appointed a special advisor to Coffee Pacifica. 

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